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Hand Arm Vibration, Control & Risk Assessment
Posted 31st July 2019

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 were introduced to protect workers from vibration at work and were recently updated in July 2019. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) caused by exposure to vibration at work is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent.

The damage to nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm occurs as a consequence of regular vibration exposure due to the use of hand-held or hand-guided power tools for more than a few hours each day i.e grinders, disc cutters, hammer drills, brush cutters, needle guns etc

Exposure and risk significantly increases for employees who regularly operate:

  • Hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
  • Some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day.

These activities are likely to generate exposures above the action value set out in the regulations (L140)

Typical industries that involve jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment are;

  • Construction & Facilities Management 
  • Forestry
  • Foundries
  • Heavy engineering
  • Mines and quarries;
  • Motor vehicle manufacture and repair

As an employer it is your responsibility to protect your employees against HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome. The first steps in reducing exposure levels are to ask the question, could the activity be done in a different way without using vibrating tools and machines. If this cannot happen then the following should be considered:

  • Making use of suitable low-vibration tools.
  • Ensuring employees are using the right tool for each job (so that the job is completed more quickly)
  • Implementing regular checks on tools to ensure they have been properly maintained and repaired to avoid increased vibration caused by faults or general wear.
  • Ensuring cutting tools are kept sharp so that they remain efficient.
  • Reducing the amount of time tools are used in one go, by doing other jobs in between.
  • Avoiding over gripping or forcing of tools more than necessary.
  • The storing of tools so that they do not have very cold handles when next used.

Improvements in blood circulation will reduce the effects of exposure and therefore employees should be encouraged to do the following:

    • Keeping warm and dry (when necessary, wear gloves, a hat, waterproofs and use heating pads if available);
    • Give up or cut down on smoking because smoking reduces blood flow
    • Massaging and exercising of fingers during work breaks.

As part of an overall vibration risk assessment it will be necessary to identify actual exposure levels for the various activities / roles within the workplace to ensure they do not exceed the HSE limits.

Vibration exposure is measured at source using an accelerometer, giving a measurement of acceleration in meters per second (m/s2). The daily exposure limit value (5 m/s2) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. The daily exposure action value (2.5 m/s2) is the level of daily exposure to vibration at or above which you are required to take certain actions to reduce exposure.

Euro Environmental can assist you with carrying out a risk assessment by initially making a site based assessment of exposure levels using specialist exposure measurement equipment. To learn more how we can help click here

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